Our History

A Legacy of Faith, Healing and Peace

Continuing A Century of Retreats

For more than 100 years, Malvern Retreat House has offered formation, healing and renewal to millions of visitors from around the world. Explore our inspiring Catholic history below and learn how the men and women of faith who came before us continue to shape who we are today.

Launch Video

1912-1922 1922-1938 1938-1947 1947-1972 1972-2000 2000-2012 2012-Today


Called by St. Joseph

“Each one does all he can to make a success of these retreats.”

John Ferrick


Relocation to Malvern

“I’m very sure that many souls in Malvern were converted and came back to God.”

Sister Alfreda


Early Growth

“I’ve been grateful to Malvern ever since [I attended retreats there in high school]. I preached a number of retreats there, and I hope this encourages others to attend. I’m a great believer in retreats.”

Bishop Edward Hughes


The Generosity of the McShain Family

“The date of my father’s first retreat may be recorded in the archives. Although I do not know this, I am acutely aware of the lasting impression those days made on him…his retreat weekend at Malvern was sacrosanct; nothing could interfere with that.”

Pauline McShain, SHCJ, of her father, John


Continued Peace and Prosperity

“A retreat deals with the regeneration of the human soul. A retreat’s work is to make us holy.”

Archbishop Sheen


A Change at Malvern

“There are great faith stories from people who come here… That’s what Malvern is all about. Malvern is a place of miracles.”

Father Gregory J. Hickey


Malvern in the Modern Age

“I can minister to a wide range of people, get their input on creating new programs, and help anyone who wants to take time out to embrace the quiet here—to develop a personal spirituality and stronger connection to God in such a unique physical setting as Malvern.”

Father Zlock

[{"Title":"1912","Year":"1912-1922","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/1912-seminary.jpg","Content":"During the summer of 1912, John J. Ferreck, a Philadelphia investment broker, attended a retreat at Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Staten Island, New York. Inspired, Ferreck wanted to create a similar retreat experience for laymen in the Philadelphia area. Archbishop Edmond Prendergast granted Ferreck\u2019s request\u2014 St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pennsylvania was selected as the site for these retreats."},{"Title":"1913","Year":"1912-1922","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/1913-first-retreat.jpg","Content":"On August 29, 1913, 65 men attended the first retreat held at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. The next week, a second retreat was held. Under the direction of Father Drumgoole, the spiritual director of these retreats, five members from the first retreat and five members from the second came together to form the Laymen\u2019s Retreat League. John Ferreck acted as president of this league until his death in 1920. "},{"Title":"1921","Year":"1912-1922","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/1921-blueprint-malvern-grounds.jpg","Content":"In 1921, John Cabrey and Richard McSorley were tasked with finding a site better suited to the League\u2019s retreats. After viewing more than 100 locations, the two were inspired by a local Paoli man\u2014whose guidance they equated to St. Joseph leading the Holy Family to shelter in Bethlehem\u2014to purchase 57 acres of a large estate in Malvern. This property remains the site of Malvern Retreat House to this day. "},{"Title":"1921","Year":"1912-1922","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/1921-thank-you-letter.jpg","Content":"The Laymen\u2019s League\u2019s final retreat at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary was held from September 2-5, 1921. The League spent the next year preparing for their first retreat in Malvern. "},{"Title":"1922","Year":"1922-1938","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/1922-history-image-1.jpg","Content":"On May 22, 1922, St. Joseph\u2019s Hall, Malvern Retreat House\u2019s first building, was formally dedicated by Cardinal Dougherty. Two weeks later, 33 attendees participated in the first retreat held in this hall. Monsignor Joseph M. Corrigan was named the first retreat master, a position he held for the next 14 years."},{"Title":"1923","Year":"1922-1938","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/additional-acres-added.jpg","Content":"In 1923, Malvern Retreat House, also dubbed St. Joseph\u2019s-in-the-Hills, acquired 50 additional acres of land. This purchase was made possible through a donation from Lowell Gabble and his wife. After this addition, the Malvern property spanned 107 acres."},{"Title":"1923","Year":"1922-1938","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/missionary-sisters.jpg","Content":"On September 30, 1923, five sisters from the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Germany came to Malvern to assist retreatants as cooks and housekeepers. They served at St. Joseph\u2019s-in-the-Hills until 1965."},{"Title":"1924","Year":"1922-1938","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/st-marys-hall.jpg","Content":"In 1924, the Men of Malvern Newsletter began fundraising to construct a new dormitory with modern amenities, such as running water. Harry J. Johnson, a retreatant and contractor, was commissioned to build this hall. In May of 1925 the new structure\u2014St. Mary\u2019s Hall\u2014was dedicated. Between 1933 and 1934, twelve additional bedrooms were added to St. Mary\u2019s Hall so the space could accommodate more retreatants."},{"Title":"1938","Year":"1938-1947","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/corrigan-groundbreaking.jpg","Content":"In 1938, William Lennox and Matthew McCloskey were tasked with the creation of a new hall that would allow St.-Joseph\u2019s-in-the-Hills to accommodate additional retreatants. They hired John Neeson as the architect of this project and John Donovan as the contractor. On May 18, 1939, the ground breaking ceremony for a new building, named Corrigan Hall in honor of Monsignor Corrigan, took place."},{"Title":"1939","Year":"1938-1947","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/additional-land.jpg","Content":"In 1939, the League purchased 23.5 acres of land, bringing the estate\u2019s total acreage to 131. Six years later, the League further expanded the property by an additional 19 acres. This purchase brought the property to its largest total acreage: 150 acres."},{"Title":"1941","Year":"1938-1947","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/1941-war-bonds-flyer.jpg","Content":"As America stepped in to World War II, so did many Men of Malvern. Dan Corry attended a retreat on Father\u2019s Day in 1941, and when he returned home, he found a letter from the Navy Department calling him to active duty. Once his service had ended, Corry returned to Malvern and dedicated much of his time to recruitment, where he gained a reputation for convincing new men to experience retreats. "},{"Title":"1947","Year":"1938-1947","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/memorial-dining-hall.jpg","Content":"During the fall of 1947, construction began on a new dining hall capable of seating 300 individuals. The hall, funded by a donation from the builder John McShain, was completed in December of that year. It was named Memorial Hall in honor of those who served during WWII and, in particular, in remembrance of the 72 Men of Malvern who died in duty."},{"Title":"1954","Year":"1947-1972","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/1954-golden-doors-news-clipping.jpg","Content":"In 1954, Our Lady\u2019s Hall was dedicated. This hall, too, was built primarily with donations from John McShain and his wife, Mary. It was here that iconic Golden Doors were installed. These doors, fabricated in Italy, were gold-plated with the wedding rings and personal items of Malvern retreatants. Today, the doors are still repaired with melted wedding rings from the Men and Women of Malvern. "},{"Title":"1954","Year":"1947-1972","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/st-josephs-hall-fire.jpg","Content":"On December 14, 1954, St. Joseph\u2019s Hall caught fire. Luckily, the fire was contained to the third floor of the building. Although this floor was never replaced, St. Joseph\u2019s Hall was eventually expanded to absorb the neighboring St. Mary\u2019s Hall. This building is still in use today\u2014it houses sleeping quarters, a library, a chapel, offices, and the Rector\u2019s quarters."},{"Title":"1972","Year":"1947-1972","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/mcshain-hall-dedication.jpg","Content":"Due to the number of visitors traveling to the retreat house each year, the League determined that the property required additional facilities for meetings and new programs. Again, McShain graciously donated $500,000 to cover the full cost of the construction. The new building, which was completed in November of 1972, was named the Mary and John McShain Hall in honor of the McShain family\u2019s generosity."},{"Title":"1972","Year":"1947-1972","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/50th-anniversary-archbishop-sheen.jpg","Content":"A celebration took place in 1972 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the League\u2019s relocation to Malvern. This event was attended by 2,500 people. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a famous Catholic orator, spoke at the celebration about the power of retreats."},{"Title":"1980","Year":"1972-2000","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/malvern-lawn.jpg","Content":"In 1980, the League sold 25 acres of the Malvern estate, leaving St. Joseph\u2019s-In-The-Hills with 125 acres. Malvern Retreat House owns the entirety of the 125 acres to this day."},{"Title":"1981","Year":"1972-2000","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/1981-rev-scanlon-photo.jpg","Content":"Reverend Monsignor Thomas Scanlon took over the position of Rector from Msgr. Anthony W. McGuire in 1981. He was succeeded by Reverend Dennis J.W. O\u2019Donnell in 1989, who would serve as Rector until 2005."},{"Title":"1986","Year":"1972-2000","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/women-at-malvern.jpg","Content":"Women played a major part in Malvern Retreat House\u2019s development, and in 1986, they began to hold retreats at Malvern. Today, the Women of Malvern, Women of Grace, and numerous women\u2019s retreat groups continue to thrive. In 2013, Anne Sabol, the first woman to earn the 25-year retreatant pin, was awarded with the Chairman\u2019s Award."},{"Title":"1998","Year":"1972-2000","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/elevator-pavilion.jpg","Content":"Retreatant Myung Song and his wife, Young Sim, donated funds to the League in 1998. This contribution was used to construct the McShain Elevator Pavilion, which connected McShain Hall to Memorial Hall. The pavilion made both halls more accessible for retreatants."},{"Title":"2000","Year":"2000-2012","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/2000-flc-ground-breaking-event.jpg","Content":"On April 20, 2000, Reverend Dennis O\u2019Donnell received a phone call from Sister Pauline Mary McShain, daughter of Mary and John McShain, offering to donate $2.9 million from the dissolution of the McShain charities fund to Malvern Retreat House. Reverend O\u2019Donnell accepted this offer and set out to construct a new center that could accommodate married couples, families, small groups and individuals."},{"Title":"2001","Year":"2000-2012","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/family-life-center.jpg","Content":"In 2001, a fundraising campaign began to raise the money necessary to supplement Sr. Pauline\u2019s donation. This campaign, named the Founders of the Future, raised a total of $8 million. $5.9 million was used to construct the McShain-Horstmann Family Life Center, which allowed Malvern Retreat House to accommodate family groups for the first time."},{"Title":"2004","Year":"2000-2012","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/2004-rev-hickey-photo.jpg","Content":"James A. Fitzsimmons assumed the presidency in 2004. Two years later, Father Gregory J. Hickey replaced Reverend O\u2019Donnell as rector. Father Hickey had a unique connection to Malvern. In his youth, his father, a 50-year retreatant, took him to see the dedication of the Golden Doors in Immaculate Conception Hall. In September of 2011, Father Hickey was reassigned and Father Herbert Sperger was named interim rector."},{"Title":"2012","Year":"2000-2012","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/hundredth-anniversary.jpg","Content":"During the Epiphany Group Retreat from January 6-8, 2012, Malvern Retreat House kicked off the 100th Anniversary Celebration of John Ferreck\u2019s original request to Father Drumgoole for a laymen\u2019s retreat house at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. "},{"Title":"2012","Year":"2012-Today","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/father-zlock.jpg","Content":"Father Charles Zlock assumed the position of rector on July 22, 2012. He was integral in transitioning Malvern Retreat House into the modern day by leading efforts to connect with younger generations through social media outreach. In particular, he increased awareness for the Spiritual Programs Committee, women\u2019s retreats and youth retreats."},{"Title":"2012","Year":"2012-Today","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/new-prayer-spaces.jpg","Content":"The 2010s saw the addition of many prayer spaces to the property. On September 16, 2012, a statue of St. Joseph the Worker, donated by Bill and Jackie McCormick, was dedicated in front of St. Joseph\u2019s Hall. In October of that year, a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima was installed."},{"Title":"2014","Year":"2012-Today","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/women-in-transition.jpg","Content":"Malvern Retreat House has continued to adapt to modern challenges in the world. In May of 2014, Malvern hosted the first Women in Transition Retreat for 53 women who were part of the Catholic Relief Services\u2019 Housing and Homeless service division."},{"Title":"2015","Year":"2012-Today","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/07\/nuns-at-malvern.jpg","Content":"Pope Francis visited Philadelphia during September of 2015 for the World Meeting of Families. Malvern Retreat House hosted 120 nuns from across the nation during this event."},{"Title":"2016","Year":"2012-Today","Image":"https:\/\/www.malvernretreat.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/08\/2016-new-president.jpg","Content":"In April of 2016, Mark J. Poletunow became the President of Malvern Retreat House, succeeding James Fitzsimmons upon his retirement. With 20 years of non-profit leadership experience, Poletunow is dedicated to continuing Malvern's trajectory of growth and reaching out to the Spanish-speaking community in the Philadelphia area. "}]

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